By James Emejo
Say absence of governing council violates enabling act.
Renewed controversies have trailed the continued existence of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) without the proposed National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP) which ought to endorse the former’s activities as provided by the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Prof. Paul Idornigie of the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies told THISDAY that one of the objectives of the BPP in ensuring probity, accountability and transparency in the procurement process is in doubt because the NCPP is yet to be established as required by the Act which also gave life to the Bureau.
Speaking on new issues of transparency and access to information in the public and private sectors at a one-day seminar themed: “Emerging Issues on Good Governance in Nigeria” which was organised by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administration of Nigeria (ICSAN) Abuja Chapter, he also carpeted the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for allegedly usurping the function of the NCPP by approving and awarding contracts at its weekly meetings.
He said the BPP could not be said to be observing good governance in its operations when the NCPP which is supposed to vet its activities is yet to be created as prescribed by law.
He further chided members of the National Assembly for being pre-occupied with frivolous oversight functions and not ensuring that laws passed are actually implemented to the letter.
The professor said:”I am actually worried about the effect on contracts being awarded by the Federal Executive Council on this issue. I won’t use the word illegal; all I’m saying is that the National Assembly members are here: if they believe that they don’t need the National Council on Procurement, they should amend the law. But we cannot have a law that provides for NCPP and since 2007, the council has not been established.”
He said:”I have a challenge with the public procurement act when talking about transparency; this was a law passed to ensure transparency and accountability. Now this law was passed in 2007 but as we speak, we’ve not had a National Council on Public Procurement and yet, we have the Bureau of Public Procurement which ought to take directives from the Council.
“All the thresholds being observed in the ministries, departments and agencies of government are determined by the BPP but the Bureau needs the approval of the National Council on Privatisation to do this.
“How do you run a system where the law provides that there should be a council and all we see every Wednesday is that the work that ought to be done by this council is being taken by the Federal Executive Council. Is that transparency?”
According to Idornigie:”If the government feels we don’t need the National Council on Public Procurement, let them amend the law to provide that it is the FEC that would play this role. One of the objectives of the BPP is to ensure probity, accountability and transparency in the procurement process. Now how can BPP do this when it has no council?”
He added that though the governing council for public procurement had not been set up, yet the BPP had been issuing financial thresholds, stressing that “the whole public procurement act made no reference to the FEC and yet, it is the FEC that approves matters which ought to be approved by the National Council on Public Procurement.”
In the same vein, Chairman, ICSAN, Abuja Chapter, Mrs. Stella Anukam, said there were several laws which had been enacted by the National Assembly but yet to be implemented.
She said:”When it comes to implementation, you would be shocked. The public procurement act is one and if the major body set up to ensure the implementation of that act since 2007 is yet to be in place I think we should begin to worry.”
Anukam, however, said ICSAN would convey the summit resolutions on issues raised to relevant authorities and press for concrete action.
Meanwhile, speaking while declaring the seminar open, Minister for Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, warned of severe consequence in neglecting good governance which he described as necessary for redeeming the country’s battered image.
He blamed the absence of good governance on the incessant political instability witnessed in the polity especially during the military regime.
Maku said the way to go was for citizens and leader to take responsibility for their actions as well as reappraise societal values.
He said everybody must be disciplined to respect rules adding that “the cutting corners syndrome is like Ebola virus” which does no good to anybody.
He added that serious people were needed in government to ensure things are done the right way.